PM Lee: Expect large-scale COVID-19 testing

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Singapore is scaling up its mass testing efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“We must test faster, and more liberally and extensively,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a national address on May 31.

With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases leading to the reimposition of stricter border and crowd control methods in the Lion City, the minister said that different testing methods will be used as a part of the new normal.

“We will not only test to identify infections when a new case pops up. We will also routinely and regularly test people who appear well in normal work, or social or community settings to make these places safe,” Lee said.

Despite polymerase chain reaction (PRC) being the more reliable testing method, it is slower than other methods such as antigen rapid tests (ART) and breahalysers.

With that, ARTs will be used as a quick check, and those who test positive through it should immmediately go on isolation. Those who take ART tests will also be given PCR tests for a more confirmed diagnosis in one or two days.

Breathalyser tests have been set up at the Causeway and the airport, and will be deployed in other places. DIY tests will soon be available over the counter at pharmacies.

“Extensive testing will give us confidence to resume larger scale events or gatherings, eg we can deploy fast and easy tests before a religious service, a football game, a concert or a wedding reception. And participants can be assured that the event is COVID-19 safe,” Lee said.

Rostered routine testing is currently being implemented in high-risk settings such as migrant worker dorms, construction worksites, shipyards, air and sea ports, hospitals, and nursing homes.

“With faster, cheaper tests, we can do routine testing at more workplaces, like offices, restaurants and shopping malls. We can also routinely test individuals whose occupations involve close contact with many people and could result in superspreading events,” Lee said.

On vaccination, Lee said vaccination of students can start in June, followed by young adults 39 years and younger.